Posted: 6:00 pm Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
By Rodney Ho
We had high expectations for this crew but so far, they aren’t reaching those levels.
And tonight, with the theme “home,” was a tough night for even some of the favorites. There were a lots of middling to decent performances, nothing really mind blowing, nothing horrible. A lot of B grades in my mind. No goosies, no standing o’s.
Favorites Majesty Rose and Jessica Meuse disappointed. Ben Briley did better than I expected. C.J. Harris did slightly better. I wasn’t as impressed with Dexter Roberts as the judges.
Caleb Johnson and Sam Woolf, while good, are feeling a bit predictable. MK Nobillette has no stage presence. Emily Piriz, no matter how hard she tries, is amateur hour.
My predicted bottom three: Jena, Emily, MK.
I have a feeling Emily is going home though MK is a possibility, too. (Her lack of votes early on after the first hour is a bad sign.) The only guy I think may fall in the bottom three is C.J.
My rankings of the top 12: 1. Ben 2. Sam 3. Caleb 4. Jena 5. Alex 6. Majesty 7. C.J. 8. Malaya 9. Dexter 10. Jessica 11. Emily 12. MK
Jena Irene Ascuillo (“Suddenly I See” K.T. Tunstall) – She does a very sweet rendition with interesting intonations. I enjoyed it. Keith likes her stage presence but didn’t think the song fit her quite right. J. Lo says she’s on the precipice of blossoming on stage. HCJ says she made different choices with the melody. He wanted her to bust out even more. Grade: B-plus
Alex Preston (“I Don’t Want To Be” Gavin DeGraw) – Sure, he looks like Duckie from “Pretty in Pink.” That’s okay. Bo Bice did this song to great effect season four. (The song is THAT old!) Naturally, Alex does a more light rock feel to it. And it surprisingly works. J Lo felt the arrangement overtook his vocals. HCJ said he’s better doing introspective soft songs but appreciates his creativity. Grade: B-plus
Jessica Meuse (“White Flag” Dido) – I liked that she countrified this pop song from a Brit singer but it did feel a little too relaxed, a lacking of urgency. HCJ said it felt too blase and understated. She was sharp vocally and didn’t feel present, he said. Keith felt she didn’t feel it. J. Lo said she doesn’t look or feel comfortable. Grade: B/B-minus
Dexter Roberts (“Lucky Man” Montgomery Gentry) – He has one of those boring expressionless faces. For a lucky man, shouldn’t he crack a smile? Otherwise, it’s a perfectly passable cover of a lovely Montgomery Gentry song. Keith liked some of the phrasing shifts and liked him showing his vulnerable side when he messed up near the end. J. Lo said he did surprise a little bit more than he has in the past. HCJ said it was the best performance of the night. Grade: B
Emily Piriz (“Let’s Get Loud” Jennifer Lopez) – She takes a risk doing something uptempo by one of the judges. She isn’t half bad but she just lacks that certain something J. Lo has. She lacks the charisma. It’s just an okay talent show take on the song. J. Lo said she loved it but is biased. HCJ said that took courage but felt she didn’t match the train of the song. The production, he said, was too big for her. Grade: B
Caleb Johnson (“Working Man” Rush) – I am not a Rush fan but he does an energetic and – I dare say – predictable version of the song. And HCJ calls him on being a great at what he does but is really doing anything that makes him truly an artist by himself? Keith said he may rely too much on the band support. Grade: B-plus
MK Nobillette (“Drops of Jupiter” Train) – She looks frightened. Vocally, as usual, it was pleasant. J. Lo said it wasn’t a breakout performance. Keith wants her to connect more. HCJ says it looks like she doesn’t want to be there. She needs to work on things that make her feel uncomfortable and she will improve. Grade: B-minus
C.J. Harris (“Waiting for the World to Change” John Mayer) – He sings this well but he lacks a certain type of stage presence to move it beyond a credible cover. HCJ said he sang consistently sharp but it worked. Keith said all that’s missing is for him making a song “more your own” so it’s more than a cover. Grade: B
Sam Woolf (“Just One’ Blind Pilot) - He was stronger than a week ago. He has a really warm voice. Keith says it’s like butter. HCJ said he is too one-note emotionally – mid-tempo and pleasant. Even J. Lo says he needs to push outside his comfort zone. Grade: B-plus
Malaya Watson (“Take Me To the King” Tamela Mann) – This song is packed with emotion. She starts out really flat. Then she busts it after she stands up from the piano. Still, her vocals in the upper registers were in key but a little thin. HCJ said this felt more focused and the message is there. “You didn’t go off the rails,” he said. Grade: B
Ben Briley (“Turning Home” David Nail ) – I thought he connected well. I enjoyed what was a very emotional and difficult song. HCJ said it felt “shouted.” J. Lo said he brought it home. Keith said he has a great voice and in the case of that song, there was so much focus on the technicality of the notes, I lost the story and emotion. Grade: B-plus/-A-minus
Majesty Rose (“Fix You” Coldplay) – It started okay. I liked the middle zone but it felt a little off at the end. She didn’t quite get all the notes there. So overall, just good, not great. The judges agreed that she should have stayed quieter and didn’t need to go for the big notes at the end. Grade: B
About the Author
I'm the media writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and ajc.com. I've been following radio since 2001, TV since 2005. I cover everything from the local radio and TV news scene to shows shot in Atlanta ("The Walking Dead," "Real Housewives of Atlanta") to networks based here (CNN, TBS, Up, Weather Channel) to celebrities who visit town.